The rapid development of technology has provided a new dimension in how people accomplish their daily activities. Social networks, a technology, which is prevalent in modern society, have simplified interaction between peoples of all ages in the society.
A social network is designated as a social system which is composed of individuals or organizations which are connected together by explicit brand of interdependency (Tatnall and Jones, 2009). The interdependency can be in terms of affinity, friendship, common interests, dislikes, common beliefs, knowledge or financial exchange among other interests.
Major social networks embraced include; MySpace, Orkut, Bebo, Facebook and Cyworld, although others such as Wikis, Blogs and Really Simple Syndication, RSS has gained prominent in the institution of higher learning. Social networks provide simple accessibility due to the fact that they have been built on Web.20 platform (Schepp and Schepp, 2009).
In universities, social network technologies have presented a great potential in their capacity to transform learning. Perhaps is due to its nature of interactivity, prompt and holding of ubiquitous abilities.
This means they can be used to provide avenues for student and instructor’s participation, create pressure for new institutional arrangements, and result in practices and frameworks that will establish collaborative participation in the learning process (Cox et al, 2003).
University Learning Processes
Extensive discussions and opinions have emerged in the field of e-learning, with special attention tied to the role of social networks to determine the administrative and educational approach of universities.
According to Bartome (2008), the effectiveness of social networks has been noticed in administrative processes such as; student admission, fees payment, registration among other important university services (Ana and Wartman, 2009).
The use of social networks in university learning process is increasing at a tremendous rate; the internet experience is daily surging lecturers, students, administrative personnel to familiarize with different social networks tools which are available on the internet to tailor learning process.
Schepp and Schepp (2009) illustrates that the emergence of web 2.0 has revolutionized learning process from the conventional top down approach traditionally embraced by lectures to network knowledge approach where lectures have altered their roles from being instructors and facilitators of the learning process.
Perhaps, it is evident that the mainstream instructional approaches do not exist in attaining the needs of preparing students to operate successfully and satisfactorily in modern labor market (Bartome, 2008).
Further, Bartome (2008) elaborates that the use of social networks in the university learning process is regularly reinvented to adapt to new and innovative applications of information technology. These efforts in the learning process mainly focus on creating efficient and sound systems besides simplifying course delivery by aligning learning process and technology.
According to Degenne and Force (1999) social networks in the learning process are constructed on discrete pedagogical model, which enhances personalized and social strategy whereas leveraging emerging technologies such as the web 2.0 tools. Hence, the social networks have not only impacted on the learning process but also shaped the structure of lecture delivery on the parties involves i.e. the academic fraternity.
Social networks offer dynamism and personalization of the learning process, hence, the term Personal Learning Environment, PLE, can be appropriate to invoke, using unique tools and social networks.
Dalsgaard (2008) illustrates that “social networks enables a student to determine the rate crafted on his or her unique insight, needs, experiences, and differentiate known from unknown, recognizes resources to stimulate learning efforts and reinforces personal beliefs”. In this case, social networks utilize technologies such as wikis, discussion forums and Blogs to establish learning process among university students.
Analysis of Social Network Technologies aiding Learning Process
A variety of tools has been created to enhance the learning experience in the classroom. Majority of tools are open source although some are available for commercial purposes. Major social networks have been developed on Web 2.0 platform to simplify e-learning and conventional class schedule (Bartome, 2008).
A Wiki is essentially a website created in a way that, it allows users to modify content available on the site. Universities have encompassed Wikis in the learning process because of various reasons. One of the Reasons is it support collaborative work eliminating the old.pdf and.doc documents.
Secondly, they provide learning materials in collaboration with all major relevant academic stakeholders i.e. students and lectures and simplifies dissemination of information to students thus making the work of the lecturer updating of the materials easy (Ana and Wartman, 2009).
Are means of dispersing information or sharing of personal views. Universities have incorporated this process in their learning process because it has substantial benefits in the learning outcomes.
Blogs are simple to use because it doesn’t require prior knowledge of HTML. The lecturers use it to build an active learning culture. On the other hand, students embrace blogs as an alternative to digital assortment or a learning diary (Bartome, 2008).
Methods to Measure Learning, Outcomes under Various Experimental and Field Situations
Sustained analysis of social media in enhancing learning outcomes in university classes anchored on overall educational objectives helps to verify that the technology is adaptable, useful and relevant. The analysis establishes change if strengthened goals in learning has to be achieved.
Assessment support lectures and administrators of learning institutions to identify incremental improvement on a student outcome, as well as changes in course delivery methods. Hence, gradual progress, rather than immediate transformation is evident in yielding long-term results and change which is appropriate.
Tatnall and Jones (2009) explores that continuous assessment entails collecting, interpreting, documenting findings and aids in design to determine the effectiveness of a given technology in achieving the learning outcome.
Consequently, the role of instructors should form part of the evaluation group. Social networks have altered what instructors do. It has increased new roles and strength to mode of delivery of lectures; hence this has altered the role of instructors. In a revamped educational system, the time spend by instructors with students makes them accumulate extensive data about a given type of technology and its impact on a student.
Instructors are the first to comment on student confidence and morale, surged content comprehension and more empathic response to global happenings using the social networks.
The role of instructors underwrites the reality of widespread use of social networks and in evaluating what and how a student can embrace with modern technology applications. Instructors association with productivity use of technology tools can be a reliable choice of determining the effectiveness of social network impact on the learning process.
The effectiveness of social networks is ingrained in the benefit of other university advancement efforts. A university’s aim of providing appropriate education to students entails many facets. This facet includes; diverse technology, administrative procedures, classroom organization, social factors, instructor’s pedagogical approach, logistical factors and curricula are some of these facets.
This phenomenon in university learning process can be critically be assessed to determine the penetration of the social networks effects at the student level, institution and community level. The assessment can be achieved through a system of learning benchmark.
Modern learning environment is distinct from the generation earlier. Fast technological changes, increased job security and enormous organizations expectations that an employee be more agile, needs adults to continue learning throughout their lives. Study on adult learning has indicated that adults learn distinctly from younger students (Luikart, 1977).
They have special needs, and these needs have to be factored in present technological development brought about by the social networks. The use of social networks in adult learning supports teachers and extends educational prospects to stretch a broader new group of younger students embracing the technology.
Social networks such as Facebook, Wiki, Yammer, Twitter, Blogs, podcasts have been embraced to deliver education to adult learners. These processes have occurred as the result of the internet (Papen, 2005). Social networks have increased self-education and promoted anonymity among the adults.
Adults are able to share with other adult learners regarding on a certain area of interest hence, through these interactions, they can increase awareness. According to Papen (2005), social networks support commitments towards sharing information, instigating new comers and lengthening shared knowledge through aspects such as shared experimentation, problem solving and liberated inquiry.
Another area of interests about social networks is the issue of anonymity. Social networks do not really embrace face to face contacts; hence, it is simpler for an adult to be open and honest about a phenomenon in the context. However, anonymity with social networks may distract adult learners because some people may opt to disseminate false knowledge (Papen, 2005).
Impact of Socialization on Learning, outcomes in University Classes
Social networks have become increasingly integrated in the education systems of most universities, hence, creating a multiple impact on students, educators and administrators.
The chief role of social sites is to provide means for an individual to make links with others. In an education setting, social networks have surged sharing of knowledge between lecturers, students and among students themselves, maintaining or finding old and former classmate and enhancing professional growth and development in a student area of discipline.
Social sites such as linkeldn and Sparkpeople, commonly embraced in higher learning institutions thus offering a student opportunity to network with educators, other students within and outside the learning environment.
Social networks have established a new social dimension hence enabling students to develop increased awareness. By interacting with social network sites, student knowledge on global issues is guaranteed. Student develops new opportunities in exploring social norms, develop technical skills and explore common interest.
By constructing a public image, student is exposed to challenges of defining themselves (Degenne and Force, 1999). This is because, most social networks prompt users to create a profile which exposes essential aspects of their identity, memberships in different groups, ideas they value and like and dislikes among others.
This is because these sites are visible to instructors, parents and the public in general. Students who are paranoid of their vulnerability are able to determine which information is appropriate to publish.
on the hand, social networks have been blamed for consuming most time for students, of which otherwise maybe valuable of doing other important things such as studying, doing research or engaging in group discussion. According to xx most users spend about 5 billion minutes a day; these users are inclusive of students. hence, prolonged usage of the social network sites promotes addictions among students.
Whereas the serendipitous use of social networks and its related applications in universities seems worthwhile for learning growth, they possess a serious social threat that may otherwise jeopardize the main goal of the technology. Facebook, a common social network site, have been on occasions summoned to court over major privacy issues (Delta, and Jeffrey, 2002).
Major social networks, for example, Facebook has hundreds of million users hence these users have different opinions, attitudes, mindsets adding on this, Facebook provides several tools and resources which monitors the activities of every user.
Hence, encompassing the experience that students have with social networks sites such as MySpace and Facebook, it is obvious that integrating social networks in a university learning environment might be another Facebook with the university periphery promoting less learning or leading to inappropriate learning culture (Delta, and Jeffrey, 2002).
Social Media: Difference on Gender usage and Uptake
social media has had historical background about their use in the society. Although, used to accomplish housework responsibilities, connection to social networks can be linked with telephone as a communication mechanism available and widely embraced at home.
Telephone service has been gendered connecting assumptions that women spend more time than men talking and the pursuit of women as telephone operators (Burton, 1992). Generally speaking, young women have closely linked with comprehensive and frivolous use of telephone technologies for social reasons.
Consequently, women’s use and impact on the growth and development of computers has been trivialized whereas the essence of computer development has been masculinized (Degenne and Force, 1999).
Women use social networking sites to expand their social relationship. According to Schepp and Schepp (2009), female participants in a survey carried out in 1997, to unravel, the inspiration of Facebook users, scored highly on a social scale for posting photos on Facebook (Burton, 1992).
Consequently, a survey carried on a blog sustained by MySpace, found out that more women wrote blogs, family, romantic connection, health and friendships. A research on Swedish social network users argued that women were likely to show friendship in the context of publishing pictures of their friends, naming their best friends and composing poems about their friends.
Consequently, women were noted to demonstrate their relationship related to family and romantic relationship. A major analysis of gender balance on MySpace asserted that men and women tend to have a majority of “Top Friends” from the opposite gender (Strathdee, 2005).
Privacy has been a controversial issue linked to social networks users. Many studies have proved that a bigger difference exists between men and women. According to Schepp and Schepp (2009) women exert more protection on their personal information and regulate their profiles to “private”, consequently; women tend to sift information’s they post on social network sites.
Despite concerns about privacy, studies have indicated that more women are more likely to maintain updated photos of themselves. Although, men and women users of social Medias show distinct motivations and behaviors they support some similarities.
For instance, a study that investigated the veracity of information shared on social networks by college students found out that men and women were likely to give accurate information about their partners name, birth and class schedule.
The increasing rise of social media among women than men has brought with it opportunities for more participatory and new social dynamism. In present society, social media tools have become a daily pattern in women’s lives, unifying their online and offline experiences and becoming the dominant instrument of social interaction and interdependence.
According to research carried by Strathdee (2005) about 42% women in the US participate in social media at least per week compared to men. As they spend more with social networks, women spend correspondingly less time with mainstream media.
Women, on a large scale use Facebook and MySpace, blogs, forums and discussion forums and twitter becomes second, third and fourth respectively. Blogs wield importance impact on women than men. Strathdee (2005) argues that women posts on blogs are more captivating, about 80% of women spend their time online.
Growth of Internet Accessibility, World and Saudi
People access the internet through various methods, common access methods used presently are leased lines, broadband, packet radio, fiber optic and WiMax connection among other methods. Internet use globally has been on the rise each-day (Forester, 1985).
With market permeation, the segment of fast growth is diminishing in developed countries whereas increasing in developing countries such as Asia, Latin America, Africa and Caribbean is increasing.
Many international organization for instance the United Nations has argued that internet access is a human right. Sustaining this assertion, some countries such as Finland, Greece, Spain and Estonia have already entrenched it to form part of human right to their respective countries (Heeks, 2001).
Margetts (1999) argues that, although the internet has been evolving for over forty years, its impact in the Middle East has been a recent phenomenon. In Saudi Arabia, internet access to its citizen was achieved in 1999. Since its introduction, the government has played an important role in influencing its use by exerting more control.
The government only permits its citizen to access the internet contents once it feels confident that it is safe and in tandem with Islamic culture (Heeks, 2001). The Saudi government has implemented internet filtering strategies by instituting proxy servers between the government owned internet connection and the servers connecting the rest of the world.
The Saudi government has censured internet sites which includes; sites with provocative attires, holocaust, sites linked to opposition political groups, Islamic extremist’s websites and free web hosting providers among other sites (Margetts, 1999).
However, other sites such as alcohol related sites, religion and media are sparingly blocked. Despite the government endeavor of streamlining the moral of Saudis by filtering specific sites, it does not filter sites which appear outside the prohibited context.
Another issue, which has been, linked with internet access in Saudi is the language. The medium access language of the internet is English accounting for the majority of home pages on the internet. Saudis who are not versed with English are disadvantaged. However, recent development in software production has eased the problem of access although some of these software’s have reported some errors.
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